Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Should Baby Sitter Bring Up Autism Question?

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just started baby-sitting a new family in my neighborhood. The family has two boys, both under age 10. The first day I was there, I noticed that the younger boy seemed to be on the autistic disorder spectrum. I learned about some of the signs in my child psychopathology class in school and immediately associated them with the boy. I had a great time baby-sitting the kids, and I am looking forward to working with them again. The only thing that is bothering me is that the parents did not let me know this beforehand. Not that I would have a problem with babysitting a child with autism, but I think I would have appreciated it if the parents had told me that before.

Now I am wondering if the parents are aware of this at all. Do you think it is appropriate for me to bring up this topic with the parents? -- Worried Baby Sitter, Denver

DEAR WORRIED BABY SITTER: Tread lightly here. First, know that many families do not detect that their children are on the spectrum until late. Doctors say that it is best to detect and treat early so that you can help your child to learn to function at the highest level possible. According to the American Autism Association, these are some signs of autism: will not play “pretend” games, avoids eye contact, has delayed speech, has obsessive interests, avoids physical contact and demonstrates little safety or danger awareness. For more signs, go to: nationalautismassociation.org/resources/signs-of-autism/.

If you have noticed some of these signs, you should mention to one or both parents that you have concerns. Explain that you have been studying this in school and have noticed symptoms that made you question whether this child might need some support. Be careful not to use judgmental language. Be positive and empathetic. Do not push them if they are unwilling to consider your thoughts right now.

Girlfriend Uncomfortable With Reader's Female Friends

DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend and I just got into a huge argument about something very stupid. I am in a different state, where I just started a new job. I don’t know very many people here, so when I was asked by a female co-worker to go to a basketball game with a group a people, I jumped at the opportunity. I told my girlfriend that I was invited and that the group was mostly women. She totally flipped out on me, and said it was rude of me to be going to an event with mainly women.

I do not know how to handle this because I thought she would see that I want to try and make new friends here, and if it happens to be by going to a basketball game with female co-workers, then why does it come off as rude? -- Am I In the Wrong?, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR AM I IN THE WRONG?: Dating long-distance is often difficult. What is required is that you trust each other to make smart decisions. This includes who you spend time with. Going to a game with a group of female co-workers should not be an issue, in theory. To quiet this storm, apologize for being insensitive -- in her mind. Assure her that your co-workers are nice and not trying to make a move on you. Ask your girlfriend to trust you. Keep talking about your lives and choices. Time will tell if you can manage the distance.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)